Healthy Living
 
Live and Learn in Nature: Hong Kong's GAIA School (In Cantonese)      
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Today’s Healthy Living will be presented in Cantonese with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

We foster open education here, putting green living into practice. It is a rare platform for learning. To those parents looking for an ideal education (for their children), this is a small paradise.

Precious viewers, welcome to Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. This week our show features the GAIA School, a private primary school in Hong Kong which offers a very special nature-centered approach to education.

GAIA in ancient Greek means “Mother Earth.” The school was established in October 2007, by a group of planet-loving people with professional backgrounds in education. Lau Wing Kai also known as “A Leaf” is the principal and a founding member of the Nature Association. Members of this association strongly believe that humanity should be closely in tune with nature, because it is our fundamental essence.

The GAIA School has an eco-focused curriculum that promotes learning and growth in a healthy, constructive and peaceful environment. This includes a policy of providing students with only meat-free meals.

We started our preparations in 2001 and I was one of the organizing committee members. In 1993 when the Nature Association was established, I was also one of the founders. In fact, the purpose of learning from nature is to return to our Home, our Oneness and our Mother Earth, as well as to experience a bigger and broader sense of existence in which one will never feel lonely.

GAIA School offers an educational model that is substantially different from the ones found in other primary schools in Hong Kong. The school utilizes a teaching approach that has enjoyed real-world success in the UK, USA and Formosa (Taiwan).

Before establishing the school, Principal Lau Wing Kai and teacher Lee Oi Yee, also known as Little Rain, together with others, went to Formosa (Taiwan) to visit schools with eco-centric philosophies. The information they gathered served as a valuable resource when setting up GAIA School. GAIA School has also tailored its curriculum so that it is relevant to children growing up in Hong Kong.

The school celebrates individuality, thus school uniforms are not required. During free periods when the students go outside, the children are encouraged to walk barefoot on the playground so they may receive Mother Earth's energy from the ground.

GAIA School values academic excellence but also believes students should develop daily life skills and sensitivity towards the environment. The students learn self-discipline, how to be leaders, and work on improving their problem-solving abilities.

Students, parents and teachers each have their own “nature nickname” which they chose themselves. The purpose of the nicknames is to promote a closer connection with our planet. There are a total of 10 teachers and 41 students at this caring institution.

Our classes start at 9 AM, and end at 3:30 PM. The morning session is mostly for compulsory subjects, including Chinese language, English language, mathematics, thematic subjects, and visual arts subjects. For students in higher grades, music is also included. Then in the afternoon, there are various elective subjects like handicrafts, guitar, drama, etc.

Also, our curriculum consists of life activities like physical labor class, for which all students are divided into different groups. Different labor activities include carrying objects, such as used papers to sell, or tending to the garden, participating in school development work, like decorating bulletin boards and cleaning the library. These comprise our labor class.

We also have a “daily life” court. How does it work? Whenever disputes arise among the students, they will be settled in the court.

We organize a field trip every month, such as hiking, or going to the beach to swim, depending on the weather. We also consider other new attractions. For example, some students discovered a bat’s cave dwelling, and then we went to go explore it together. We have been to some outlying islands also. Our purpose is to let them have close encounters with nature through frequent outdoor activities.

To live in harmony with Mother Earth, humanity must adopt the compassionate plant-based diet. The children and teachers at GAIA School all partake of meatless lunches.

We also promote the vegan diet with a high proportion of raw food. Being vegan is the action of trying to re-examine the eating habits of modern civilization. We have been on many wrong paths. We have eaten a lot of foods that are not only unhealthy, but also harmful. We have eaten a lot of foods produced by the meat industry. I think as a starting point, we can make some changes to our lunch. This provides an alternative way of eating for those who have already gotten used to the modern eating habit.

At GAIA School, each child is considered unique and therefore teachers consciously adjust their instructional style to meet the individual needs of the student. This approach reduces feelings of stress that students may encounter when facing particularly challenging academic coursework. The school’s philosophy emphasizes that learning and experiencing life are one and the same.

Here, we teach according to the nature of each individual, because each person is different. Some are fast learners, some are slow learners. Some learn with their bodies, while others learn through arts. Some prefer to listen, read and write quietly.

Some parents here are inclined towards green living, and they feel that their kids should learn naturally and be happy. Some of our students had issues and frustrations when trying to adapt to their former schools. When they were looking for alternatives, they got to know us.

Here are some thoughtful observations about the institution from GAIA School students and their parents.

My name is Green Cloud. My son is in the fourth grade here. His name is Kapok. We have been here for two years. Not only is my son learning in this school, but myself as well. I am learning how to live a simple life. I am a volunteer here. I sometimes help kids study and help cook in the kitchen, this makes life meaningful.

Kids studying here are more carefree than before. They do not just learn from books, but also from what they encounter and observe in the environment, which is more abundant than before. They have become more relaxed now. So I believe this kind of alternative school is worth a try. My kid is much happier and more relaxed since studying here.

Green Cloud credits the school’s no-meat philosophy with influencing her family’s diet.

Now we eat veggie meals whenever possible, which is beneficial to our health, because meat-eating makes our body acidic. Now we eat more plant-based foods, which is not only good for our bodies, but also helps the environment as a whole.

Coral and Hippo are the proud parents of Grasshopper, who is in the fourth grade.

My daughter has studied in the nature school for almost three years. We find that she has changed a lot. She now takes initiative and is independent, and her health has improved too.

Yes, I am very thankful for the care and teaching they impart to my daughter, and I feel I have found the right school for her.

I like Gaia School, because it advocates frugal living and a close relationship with nature. It also encourages kids to learn by themselves. I think these are what the children need. I observed that many parents outside worry about their kids lagging behind the competition and not being brilliant enough. The reason is that they are too materialistic. If we parents can choose to live frugally, as in my case, we can have more time to take care of our kids.

I found studying in my previous school too laborious. Every evening, I finished my homework almost at 11 PM or 12 AM. After that I had to review my lessons. Sometimes, I worked until midnight or 1 AM, and still I was not done. Therefore, I decided to transfer to this school in the hope that I can improve my academic performance and become happier.

Role playing is a kind of active learning that GAIA School students enjoy immensely. With the permission of Principal Lau Wing Kai, we invited some students to act as reporters and interview other students as well as parents and teachers. Before they began, we gave the children a brief tutorial on reporting. They all learned very fast and turned out to be fine interviewers!

Hallo, I am a correspondent from Supreme Master Television. The first question is why did you choose this school?

Actually, in the beginning it was my mother who told me about this school. She said it allows the students a lot of freedom, there are many things for us to play with and we can choose whatever subjects we like to study. The school appealed to me very much. I wanted to study here, so my mother enrolled me in the school.

I also learned to get along with other people. Here, I have made a lot of friends.

Oh, I see. What subjects do you like? And which grade are you in?

I am in the sixth grade. My favorite subject is the Chinese language. My favorite elective subject is Chinese ink painting.

I would like to interview a parent volunteer. Let me introduce her to the audience. Please tell us your name.

Hallo everybody, my name is Koala. My daughter is in the fourth grade here; she is called Panda.

How about the philosophy of the school?

The philosophy of this school emphasizes learning from life. The purpose of her coming here is to learn how to deal with herself, and later with other people. In this school, learning is manifold and diversified.

Why did you come here to teach?

Why? Because I love kids, and I dreamed of running a school so that I can take them out to play in nature.

When our visit to GAIA School concluded, we presented each teacher and student with a copy of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s #1 international bestseller, “The Noble Wilds,” which they all received joyfully. In closing, we salute you Principal Lau Wing Kai and all the teachers at GAIA School, for your dedicated devotion to providing a nurturing academic environment in which each student is able to reach their full potential and greatly develop in body, mind and spirit.

Be Veg,
Go Green
2 Save the Planet!

For more details on GAIA School, please visit: www.GaiaSchool.edu.hk

Wise viewers thank you for your kind company today on Healthy Living. May all children forever have a bright future on our beautiful and sustainable Earth.

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